The World of Egdon Heath in Thomas Hardy’s The Return of the Native

There were many texts of Thomas Hardy based on animism, the belief that all objects have a spiritual being. This belief led to his careful stewardship of nature out of fear or respect for these divine spirits. Moreover, rustic lifestyles, dependent on nature become respectful attire in his writing. The same is true for his The Return of the Native. Here the nature is presented through the Egdon Heath which is a fictitious area of Thomas Hardy's Wessex . However, Hardy draws Egdon Heath keeping in mind east of Dorchester and north-west of Wareham broadly.

The Three Woman and Their Respective Approaches Towards Egdon Health: Eustacia Vye, Thomasin and Mrs. Yeobright are the three women as mentioned in Book 1 of The Return of the Native. This three major woman character had their different reactions and outlooks towards Egdon.

Eustacia hates Egdon and calls it her heads her cross and in the course of the novel it proves be her death. Egdon makes Eustacia further melancholic and board her to the extremity. She becomes gloomy, self – centered, rebellious and bitter. As it is a place devoid of pleasure, Eustacia finds herself here in Egdon as sole hungry of pleasures. Her desire of amusement is so scarce a content in Egdon. Comparatively she is finding solace in the thought of escapism to the pompous world of Paris rejecting this gloomy surrounding. Her constant fight against the Egdon and her constant fight against the Egdon and his sorrowing hands prove very fatal to her. She tragically meets her head by the side of a pool.

Thomas Hardy
Thomasin however is quite at home in Egdon. She would rather be unhappy elsewhere. It is a familiar old place but she cannot appreciate the gaiety of it equal terms. There is no ghost in Egdon for pretty ‘Tamsie’. Egdon also accepts her and makes her happy at the end of the play. Mrs. Yeobright is quite contending in her Egdon situation. Though a curate’s daughter she finds nothing abnormal in staying here. But she has a sense of superiority over the country folk. There is no further explanation regarding her reaction towards Egdon it must be accepted that she as a character saturated with the obnoxious varieties of Egdon.

Chorus Characters or Philosophical Party in Egdon Heath (The Return of the Native): Chorus , in the theater, is a group of singers and dancers who take part in a drama and are accompanied by music.   In The Return of the Native, Hardy has introduced some of his finest and most humorous rustics or chorus characters. The philosophic party is formed of grander cantle and his son Christian, young charley and Johny Nunsuch, Timothy Fairway, Sam Humphrey and Olly Dowden, Grandfer Cantle is a merry old man, as full of notes as a bird, even at the age of 70. With him immense capacity of merry marking his hamlets boastfulness grotesque humour, he is the leader of the rustic character. 

Grandfer Cantle is non Christian is a clumsy, stupid and superstitious fellow. He was an important role in the novel. He gambles arrange the guineas sent by Mrs. Yeobright to give Thomasin and Eustacia.
Charley, another interesting character regards Eustacia a lovely wonder. He gives Eustacia the role of Turkish knight and lights the bonfire on the night of 5th November.

The little child Johnny Nun such plays a major port. First he informs Diggory Venn of the secret meeting of Eustacia and Wildeve. It is again Johnny to whom Mrs. Yeobright addresses her dying words and he conveys them to Clym thus informing him that Eustacia had seen Mrs. Yeobright knocking at the closed doors and yet not open them.

  The Nocturnal Association of Egdon Health: The novel begins with an exclusive description of the Egdon Heath. The vast tract was gradually covered by dark hue though the sky was still bright. The furze cutters looking upwards, would have felt that there was still some time to the night and would have continued the work; but if he looked down on the heath he would have felt that the night had almost come and would have decided to go home. The whole Egdon Heath has a mysterious appearance in the night. At night Egdon Heath became a place full of a watchful intentness because when other things fells in to a sleep the heath appeared to awake. Every night its huge form seemed to wait for something. It has remained unchanged from its birth waiting for one last crisis – the final overthrow. The beauty of the Egdon heath is majestic, impressive, emphatic and grand in its simplicity. A Celtic would have felt that he had a natural right to wander on this heath. In summer days did the mood of Egdon heath touch the level of gaiety? The storm was Egdon’s lover and the wind its friend and at such times the health became the home of strange phantoms. The heath was indeed, a near relation of the night.


Ref: 1. Thomas Hardy: Wikipedia <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Egdon_Heath>
     2. The Concise Cambridge History of English Literature

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